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Maybank consultants send mixed signals for Johns Island’s future
Lee Walton

If last week’s flurry of Palter and Chatter articles and commentaries are any indication, Charleston’s imperial mayor and his deal-estate development cronies have a whole lot riding on their world-class visions for the future of Maybank Highway and the rest of Johns Island. Riley and his want-to-be environmentalist and sidekick, Dana Beach, recently conned County Council into second-guessing the will of the voters who supported the ½ cent sales tax referendum and voted specifically to widen Maybank Highway. In a local parallel to what Bill Clinton’s meaning of the word “is” is, Riley and his stable of sycophantic pettifoggers are now claiming that construction of turn lanes and bike paths would legally constitute the vote-approved roadway widening. Meanwhile, Riley’s hired “ringers from off” have been spinning more convoluted and contradictory visions for the development of Johns Island.

Riley’s consortium of conspiracy now includes two traffic consultants from Atlanta, an oxymoron if ever there was, each spinning separate tales about their vision of what life on Johns Island will be a generation from now. In his last Monday’s commentary, Atlanta traffic consultant Paul Moore again touted his vision of interconnecting neighborhood streets as an effective way of separating local neighborhood traffic from commuting traffic. In theory, by providing increased interconnectability, his street grid pattern would allow local and commuting traffic to selectively separate by some mystic sense of altruistic behavior to distribute the traffic burden more evenly on a less ambitious Maybank Highway improvement and “…newly connected local streets.” Moore also warned that the current Roadwise “…five-laning of Maybank will inevitably lead to the suburbanization of Johns Island…Johns Island will look and feel like James Island, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant.” Moore then stressed the desire of the locals who “…want to maintain their rural character.”

Meanwhile, Rich Hall, Riley’s other Atlanta traffic consultant, paints a different, albeit probably more accurate, description of Riley’s world-class vision for the future for Johns Island. In David Slade’s Tuesday, July 24th article, Hall indicated that, “The network of streets would also encourage the sort of dense, mixed-use development the city would like to see…” Strangely, what Hall describes, “…will look and feel like James Island, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant” that Moore describes as the “… suburbanization of Johns Island.” One would think the least they would do, as well-paid traffic consultants, is to consult enough to get their visions to agree; they can’t have it both ways.

The common element missing in the Moore-Hall altruistic vision for Maybank Highway and Johns Island is credible proof that their alternative has worked elsewhere in similar settings with similar demographics and the natural constraints found in the Lowcountry. Locally, several pitchfork roadway networks have proven just the opposite. The Ashley River Bridge District is arguably the handle of a three-tined pitchfork for Savannah Highway, Ashley River Road and, beyond I-526, The Glenn McConnell Expressway. The Ravenel Bridge is the handle for the pitchfork formed by Coleman Boulevard, The US-17 By-Pass, and Mathis Ferry Road. On James Island, Folly Road is paralleled by the Maybank-Riverland Drive network to the west and the Ft. Johnson-Harbor View Road network to the east. All three of these “pitchforks” have created notorious traffic congestion for local and commuter traffic alike. Many pitch battles have occurred in the adjoining neighborhoods transected by these roadway pitchforks to eliminate objectionable cut-through traffic. The closure of Stocker Drive in the Ashley Bridge District and the prolific ‘traffic humping’ of Rivers Point on James Island are only two of the better known examples of the unwillingness of subdivisions to tolerate street interconnectability when their quality-of-life is at stake.

If Consultant Hall’s pitchfork roadway network is so great, why not try it out on an existing problem first? If Riley and Beach are so cock-sure of their vision, why not try it on James Island or West Ashley? If street interconnectability is such a great solution to traffic congestion, why hasn’t either of the east-west links between Ashley River Road and the Glenn McConnell Expressway been constructed as proposed in Riley’s much touted “Century Five Plan”?

The next time you have an opportunity to attend a public hearing where either Hall or Moore are promoting their visions of street interconnectability and pitchfork roadway networks, ask them where it has recently been successfully implemented. Don’t settle for the few places where it may have existed for decades, but ask where roadway pitchfork networks have been successfully constructed within a rapidly expanding, urbanizing environment interdicted with tidal rivers, fragile marshes, and priceless live-oak canopies.

Pitchforks are best left for their intended purpose – shoveling manure. Riley has been using one with endless vigor to do just that for over three decades.

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